Cornell University goes online and cancels after COVID-19 outbreak

Updated: 12/15/21 — 15:00

Tompkins County currently has more than 1,100 active cases of COVID-19. The vast majority of them, nearly 900, can be attributed to Cornell University students. But the county has only nine hospitalizations.

Original story: VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Cornell University is canceling all student activities and moving final exams online, after a recent outbreak of COVID-19. More than 400 positive cases were confirmed over the weekend. This represents approximately half of all active cases in Tompkins County. The most contagious omicron variant was also found Monday in positive student samples.

Overall, there are nearly 900 active cases in the county. The current number is higher than it has ever been at Tompkins.

Director of Public Health Frank Kruppa said that given how little we know about omicron, Cornell University is exercising appropriate caution.

“It’s really because of the unknown from omicron. It’s still new and we’re still learning. It certainly seems to be more transmissible, at least in our experience here in Tompkins County,” Kruppa said.

A surveillance test site at Cornell University. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

The county is still waiting for some tests to be sequenced by Cornell’s lab. But Kruppa said based on initial screening, it’s likely many of them will test positive for the omicron variant.

Between the new variant and vacation travel, Kruppa said the health department expects an increase in cases. But he added that it is important to keep in mind that only ten residents are currently hospitalized.

“While we’re concerned that our numbers are up for cases, that’s never a good thing, we’re really hyper-focused on those hospitalization numbers,” Kruppa said.

He stressed that the means to stop community spread remain the same. He urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks and continue social distancing.

In one declaration, Cornell President Martha Pollack said that while it is disappointing to have to cancel activities with only a few days left in the semester, it is necessary to reduce the spread to the wider community. Students are encouraged to get tested before leaving campus.

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